Praja Diriya Padanama started its work in 1993, with its official registration being completed in 2003. The organisation started as a way to respond to the emerging needs of the local community. As Sri Lanka's war continued, refugees from the North as well as the East of the country started gathering in the Puttalam District, some with relatives and many others in temporary camps. These camps for the internally displaced amounted to 171 at their peak. This influx of internally displaced people in the area resulted in two simultaneous incidents: firstly, the situation highlighted the ethnic and religious divisions in the local communities and resulted in the gradual marginalisation of minorities. Secondly, the situation put in perspective the excessive challenges women face during a war. Praja Diriya started working at the intersection of these two locally felt issues.
Praja Diriya focuses on promoting peace and coexistence among marginalised communities and people belonging to different categories. Their work goes beyond the mainstream ethno-religious demarcations of the Sri Lankan conflict and engages with the community to promote acceptance for, and inclusion of, differences. Today, Praja Diriya engages the national level discussions around promoting the rights of marginalised communities.
Praja Diriya takes a culture-based approach in their work and conducts research on the minority communities in Sri Lanka, such as those who are from African, German, and Bangladeshi descent. These people and their voices are not heard within mainstream discussions and despite being born and bred in the country, they are not acknowledged as citizens. Praja Diriya voices their issues and gives them visibility through its work. This work for a broader inclusivity for the diversity that exists in Sri Lanka is the basis of Praja Diriya’s peacebuilding principles.
As a result of Praja Diriya’s work, there is more awareness of and acceptance for minority ethnicities in the local area. There has been an interest in the issues of these minority communities at the national level. Praja Diriya’s work on women’s issues and LGBT issues has also had a concrete impact on bringing peace to people’s lives. In its work with marginalised communities, Praja Diriya works with women sex workers. Praja Diriya has managed to gather and register over 300 sex workers. Through the awareness promotion work of the organisation, these women are able to access public health facilities with relative ease, and have started forming alliances and networks that strengthen and reduce violence in their lives. Praja Diriya also works with leading women’s organisations in the country to increase the number of women in the parliament.
The organisation works with 500 marginalised families (intended target 1200) and small, but organised groups of lesbians and sex workers in the area.
The organisation’s work is based in Puttlam District, but its cultural work such as exhibitions, photography, songs and dramas produced by and together with the groups it works with are being put to use throughout the island.
Praja Diriya has partnered with local organisations such as NTT, FLICT, Family Planning Association, Women and Media Collective, Lakbime Mavvaur saha Diyaniyo, Praja Shakthi Development Foundation, and Inform in its work.
- Praja Diriya’s work during the conflict: a review of a fact finding mission in response to a report by the organisation: http://reliefweb.int/report/sri-lanka/sri-lanka-fact-finding-mission-udappuwa
- NTT showcase Praja Diriya’s work for coexistence: http://www.neelan.org/arts_culture.html
- Women’s day multi-ethnic, multi-religious event organised by Praja Diriya to celebrate the Women’s Day 2009: http://womenandmedia.org/international-womens-day-3/
- A newspaper article where Indrani Kusumalatha talks about their work with female sex workers: http://nation.lk/online/2015/07/04/unprotected-against-abuse/